Arab Spring window closing in Iran

Ahmed Maher

Ahmed Maher

The Frontline piece titled Revolution in Cairo covers the April 6th Movement’s Arab Spring efforts against Mubarak’s regime.   April 6th Movement makes use of social media, particularly video, to expose atrocities and disseminate their message.  Facebook and YouTube are the primary delivery methods and with 60% of the population under 30, these social media’s efforts take a deep grip on the people, catching the regime by surprise.

When a leader of this movement named, Ahmed Maher (no relation to Bill) was captured, tortured and finally released after giving a fake password to his Facebook page, pictures of his injuries are posted on Facebook.  Facebook does not even have passwords, per se; the regime’s lack of understanding of social media came back to bite them because the publication of Maher’s injuries only served to further galvanize the movement.

The Arab Spring movement has already proven to be capable of gripping like-minded youth throughout the Middle East.  April 6th Movement took lessons from the largely peaceful Serbian uprising against Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in particular.  Iranian youth would be well served to closely examine the tactics of the Arab Spring in Egypt as well as Libya, Serbia, Tunisia and others.  The Iranian regime is different for sure, but many of these social media tactics can still work for Iranian’s to get their message out and to coordinate their movement.  The Iranian’s need their own April 6th moment, their own Tahrir Square moment or their own Tiananmen Square moment to serve as a symbol of the their own movement for freedom.  Iranian’s need their own Ahmed Maher to rally the people.  The Ayatollah’s grip is tightening in Iran as the regime learns effective tactics to combat social media through internet censorship.  Organization of the movement around social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook can be a critical facet of a similar pro-freedom movement in Iran, but the window for Iranians is closing.

Ayatollahs soon face war on two fronts

Jane Kokan

Jane Kokan

The 2004 Frontline piece on the student uprisings in Iran—prior to the current Ayatollah’s puppet leader Ahmadinejad was elected in protested elections—is both eye-opening and disturbing. Any sort of non-conformity toward Iranian political policy is met with relentless force. Students—men and women alike—are jailed, tortured, sexually violated and even murdered. According to student leaders in the Frontline piece, popular dissent stems from a desire for individual freedom, specifically religious freedom. The protesters want religion out of politics, but this would mean an end to religious Ayatollah rule and these religious clerics are not willing to relinquish their power over the people. Prior to the current regime, a more liberal President ruled. Even thought this President was also an Ayatollah puppet, his liberal policies likely encouraged the student protests in the 2004 timeframe. This is an encouraging signal regarding the possible emergence of democracy in Iran, but the Ayatollah’s recognized this and put into power a much more conservative or even fascist President, Ahmadinejad. While Ahmadinejad shows he has no problem ruling over a fascist state that squashes public discontent with violence, the organic groundswell calling for more freedom in Iran cannot be denied. There is a well-entrenched fascist machine in place in Iran and it will take a massive public movement to unseat the current regime. The regime is not really Ahmadinejad and his cronies; it is the Ayatollahs. The Ayatollahs decide who runs for office and most likely also have the ability to dictate the outcome of elections. In order for regime change to come in Iran, the Ayatollah’s will need to relent. This is unlikely. It is more likely the Ayatollahs will retain power and put in place more tolerant puppet leaders. This can only happen if Ahmadinejad and his police state are unable to quiet the surging wave of protests and calls for more freedom. If the people of Iran persist, the Ayatollahs may be left with no choice but to go along. This assumes no foreign intervention.

America and its allies is also dealing with a choice when it comes to Iran. The Ayatollah’s are playing with fire when it comes to their defiant approach to nuclear proliferation in their country. Should the world at large feel any more threatened by the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran and economic sanctions continue to be ineffective at deterring the Ayatollahs, there will be military intervention. This will not be good for the Ayatollah’s, the region or the world. In the region, war is likely to break out as Islamic tribes choose sides and unrest is likely to spill over into neighboring Iranian Middle East countries such as Israel, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. World powers such as Russia and China who have to-date been unwilling to intervene with sanctions will be forced to choose sides. When that happens world war is not out of the question. For the Ayatollahs, any potential military intervention is unlikely to stop at nuclear disarmament; the end game of military intervention will stop at nothing less than regime change. That spells trouble for the Ayatollahs. The Ayatollah’s would be wise to back off their nuclear ambitions for the time being and deal with the Iranian personal freedom protests, otherwise they will find themselves fighting a war on two fronts: one against foreign enemies and one against an enemy from within, their own people.

Will there be violence if Zimmerman is not arrested?

Doors of Sanford PD blocked by protesters   

Doors of Sanford PD blocked by protesters

This morning, the office of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey announced she has decided not to use a Grand Jury. In Florida, only cases involving first degree murder charges need a Grand Jury, and Corey has a history of not using a Grand Jury unless required. If this decision holds, one can assume Zimmerman will not get the first-degree murder charge the Martin family advocates want.

On the same day, the “Dream Defender” protesters arrived at the steps of the Sanford P.D., off their three-day 40 mile march from Daytona Beach. These protesters have managed to prompt the Sanford P.D. to shut down their offices for the day because the protesters are blocking the entrance. This is wise move by the P.D. made to avoid further confrontation and perhaps even violence

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2012/04/florida-special-prosecutor-to-skip-grand-jury-in-trayvon-case-/1
http://www.wesh.com/r/30860081/detail.html

President claims he is pro-private-sector?!

The JOBS Act was signed into law yesterday. According to WhiteHouse.gov and others, this law “will help startups get access to a larger pool of potential investors and make it easier for businesses to become publicly traded companies.” The JOBS Act exemplifies a notion nearing extinction in Washington D.C.–bipartisanship–and it is good to see some actual work getting done there.

But alas, the President ruins it by stepping in and giving yet another campaign speech predicated on a premise that runs counter to the trends under his administration. In his remarks on the JOBS Act, the President says, “I’ve always said the true engine of job creation in this country is the private sector, not the government. Our job is to help our companies grow and hire.” Fast-forward to the 3:55 mark for the pertinent quote:


If the President truly believes this, why is he allowing the government to grow by leaps and bounds? Why is he allowing his administration to saddle private sector businesses with stifling regulations? Why is he not creating an atmosphere of certainty in which private sector business owners are willing to invest in their growth? The President is telling America one thing but doing another.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s Conn Carroll:

Since the beginning of the last recession (December 2007) the private sector workforce has shrunk by 6.6% … Over that same time period, the federal government workforce (excluding Census and Postal workers) has grown by 11.7% while adding 230,000 jobs … Now, President Obama’s FY 2012 budget proposes adding even more people to the federal payroll. Specifically, the President wants to create an additional 15,000 federal government jobs including 4,182 additional Internal Revenue Service employees 1,054 of which will be needed to implement Obamacare alone.

 

From Heritage.org

As gov't grows, the private sector shrinks

Admittedly this trend started under W, but how does increasing size and scope of government fit with the President’s statement regarding the central role of the private sector in job growth? It doesn’t. Economists argue increased government spending hand-cuffs private sector spending. For every dollar spent by the government, the private sector spends less. Compounding that problem, political agendas drive government spending, not economic sense. When government spending increases, private sector funding is hindered and since government “investments” are made for political purposes, they often lose (see green energy investments in Solyndra, A123 and others for proof).

Government regulations on private enterprise have also grown under the Obama administration. The administration is exacerbating the regulatory problems by growing the regulatory bureaucracy itself in order to keep up with the growing reach of said regulations. This trend did not start under George W.

The Government Regulation Business is Booming

The Government Regulation Business is Booming


John Merline of Investor’s Business Daily writes:

Regulatory agencies have seen their combined budgets grow a healthy 16% since 2008, topping $54 billion, according to the annual “Regulator’s Budget,” compiled by George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis … employment at these agencies has climbed 13% since Obama took office to more than 281,000, while private-sector jobs shrank by 5.6%…The Obama administration imposed 75 new major rules in its first 26 months, costing the private sector more than $40 billion, according to a Heritage Foundation study. “No other president has imposed as high a number or cost in a comparable time period,” noted the study’s author, James Gattuso…This July, regulators imposed a total of 379 new rules that will cost more than $9.5 billion, according to an analysis by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

Heritage Foundation production on government overregulation:

So while the President is preaching to reporters in the Rose Garden about the importance of the role of the private sector in job growth, he is diverting funds away from the private sector and growing his government which is already running at record deficit levels. Common sense says doubling down on a loser (government) is a bad idea when one can invest in a winner (private business).

Private sector growth is also hampered by the current atmosphere of uncertainty cultivated by the current administration. The national debt and subsequent threat of increasing income taxes, murkiness on the cost of complying with Obamacare and excessive regulations are the key factors contributing to the uncertainty.

Katie Boyd posts on John Boehner’s Blog:

According to Stanford University Economist John B. Taylor, most businesses have plenty of cash to invest and create jobs,” but they’re holding back because of “increasing concerns about the federal debt, another financial crisis, threats of inflation or deflation, higher taxes, or simply more interventions.” To get American job creators off the sideline, Taylor says that a credible plan “to reduce the deficit and the growth of debt” would “remove some of the concerns and fears,” businesses have about the future, including the prospect of tax increases coming down the pike.

She goes on to say:

Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Diana Furchtgott-Roth says rolling back excessive government regulations, as the GOP proposed in the Plan for America’s Job Creators, is key to more robust private-sector job growth. Burdensome regulations “create a climate of uncertainty, damaging economic growth and employment, and inhibiting employers and investors,” says Furchtgott-Roth. “…the economy could likely create more jobs through costless regulatory reform than through additional spending.
So while the President is spending taxpayer money that isn’t there on implementing regulation after regulation, many argue that costless de-regulation is really the answer to promoting private sector job growth.

Inverse relationship between government and private sector growth:

Government and Private Sector Growth Inversely Proportionate

Government and Private Sector Growth Inversely Proportionate


All of this evidence points toward the growing size and scope of government and can mean one of two things: Either President Obama is a supporter of bigger government or he is powerless to stop it. Neither are good. It is challenging to understand how the President can claim these trends support his recent statement on the importance of the private sector in growing jobs and the government’s role in helping the private sector grow. That is…until one considers the President is already in campaign mode. With Romney’s nomination all but sealed, the President knows he is going to be in for a struggle for the prized independent vote. Independent voters will not support a big government platform, so one must assume the President is simply saying what independents want to hear in order to win their vote in November.

References:
http://blog.heritage.org/2011/02/22/federal-workforce-continues-to-grow-under-obama-budget/
http://news.investors.com/article/581555/201108151901/regulation-business-jobs-booming-under-obama-.htm
http://blog.heritage.org/2011/07/27/morning-bell-tangled-up-in-washingtons-red-tape/
http://www.speaker.gov/blog/?postid=259749

Chinese and Soviet economic policy of 1980’s has lasting economic consequences

Chinese and Russian Connection

The Chinese and Russian Connection

Many political scientists draw a connection between the Chinese economic reforms in the 1980’s and Gorbachev’s efforts toward the same in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic—U S.S.R.  Both of these countries along with others are profoundly affected by these events.  The Soviet policy of perestroika begins a movement toward free markets in that country, but does not go far enough to be wholly successful.  The Soviet policy of glasnost is well intentioned but ultimately hinders Soviet economic progress.  As the economies and politics of the world’s countries become more interdependent, the impact of changes within the U.S.S.R. also leaves impressions on China and the United States of America.  The revolutions in the communist countries of Europe of the 1980’s embolden the Chinese government to continue its crackdown on political dissention, but the relaxation of economic regulations during this time gives China one of the fastest growing economies in modern history.

Perestroika is the label given to Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic modernization and political reform policies of the 1980’s.  The approach in the Soviet Union is top-down, whereby the state still clings to economic power, maintains price controls and disallows private property ownership (Library of Congress, 1996).  Foreign investment and trade is also severely hindered.  Although Gorbachev allows private ownership of businesses for the first time since Lenin’s state capitalism of the 1920’s, he also allows the state to set the production quotas and leaves business owners to struggle for funding under stringent regulations (Library of Congress, 1996).   While Perestroika is a groundbreaking first step towards free markets in the Soviet Union—and in many ways is the catalyst for the nationalization of its constituent republics such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan—it does not go far enough to fully modernize, and the Soviet economy continues to decline through the 1990’s.

At the same time in China, Deng Xiaoping is also embracing free market ideals and implementing market based economic reforms that are later termed the socialist market economy of modern China.  Unfortunately for Russia, this is where the similarities end.  Unlike Gorbachev, Xiaoping is—in title—neither the head of government or a political party in China (New Learning, 2011).  Nevertheless, he is able to influence economic change China.  Where the Soviet’s discourage relations with entities outside their state, the Chinese embrace such partnerships.  While the Soviet state continues to set prices, the Chinese phase out such measures and allow the sale of goods on more open markets.  While the Soviet Union controls the rate of production, the Chinese grant more production rights to business owners.  While the Soviets handicap private business funding with stifling regulations on foreign investment, the Chinese endorse foreign investment (New Learning, 2011).  The Chinese bottom up approach and recognition of a need to play a role in the global economy are the reasons the Chinese experience better economic growth than the Soviets.

Prior to and during perestroika, Gorbachev is also encouraging more transparency in government with political reforms termed glasnost.  Gorbachev has the right idea with glasnost, but the people of the U.S.S.R. are so frustrated by years of oppression that protests and civil instability increases.  This creates a more tumultuous and unpredictable economic environment (Magstadt, 1989).  Soviet workers protest low pay and poor working conditions; there also is an outcry to end the invasion of Afghanistan (Remington, 1989).  This civil unrest is the precise opposite of what Gorbachev hopes and presumably makes him question—if only to himself—if glasnost is the right course.  The Soviet economy is the recipient of the negative effects of a new voice of the strife within its people, which is ironically tied to the government allowing more freedom.

Unlike the Soviets of the 1980’s, the Chinese government is continuing to crackdown on its opposition.  The Chinese demonstrate this most notably during the protests calling for democracy in Tiananmen Square. Gorbachev’s glasnost policies are a catalyst for the fall of communism in countries such as Poland, Hungary, Easy Germany, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia.  The Chinese people see the rise of freedom in their neighboring Communist countries and want this for themselves, helping to spark the protests.  Indirectly, Soviet glasnost is a likely source of the Chinese protestor courage. Xiaoping—the father of China’s socialist market economy—is not surprisingly a supporter of the movement, but is later forced by the Chinese Communist Party to denounce the incident (Barboza, 2011).  Ultimately, the events of Tiananmen Square give the Chinese government an excuse to crackdown under the veil of restoring order and work to only temporarily impede the Chinese economic surge.  Counter-intuitively, the continued crackdown in China may very well be the reason the Chinese economy flourished while the Soviets struggle.  Successful free markets require order and rule of law, something the Chinese maintain while the Soviets let slip.

China’s economy is growing rapidly and with that growth U.S. and Chinese trade increases.  Total U.S. trade with China increases from $2 billion in 1979 to $457 billion in 2010 and most of the increase is attributable to the export of Chinese goods (Congressional Research Service, 2011). In 1985—prior to the Chinese economic reforms—the U.S. imports only $3 billion in goods from China.  In 2011, almost $400 billion of U.S. trade with China is in Chinese exports (United States Census Bureau, 2012).  This increase in Chinese output coincides almost perfectly with the Chinese economic reforms of the 1980’s.  Because China realizes the advantages of a worldwide economy in the 1980’s, an increased consumer base for China creates a newfound demand for goods and allows their economy to flourish over the last three decades.

Conversely, the comparatively stagnant trade between the U.S. and Russia demonstrates the failure of the persistent Soviet isolationist economic policies of the 1980’s.  Because of Soviet secrecy and isolationism, reliable trade numbers older than 1992 are not even readily available.  As a contrast to the burgeoning exports of China, the Soviets only increase their exports to the U.S. from $481 million in 1992 to $34 billion in 2011 (United States Census Bureau, 2012).  The difference in China is stark.  Although Soviet economic policies of the 1980’s are not solely to blame for Russia’s failure when compared to China, the complexion of the Russian and Chinese economies would likely be quite different if those policies are reversed.

The transformations in China and the former Soviet Union in the 1980’s extend far beyond the borders of these two countries.  Glasnost paved the way for perestroika in the U.S.S.R.  Glasnost and perestroika awakened the Chinese to begin a transformation of their own in order to stay competitive, and also in an attempt to partially appease the Chinese people.  Chinese exports are decades ahead of what the Russian’s can achieve.  Subsequently, the United States’ trade with Russia remains largely stagnant but is ever increasing with China.  American’s enjoy the benefits of less expensive goods due to the increased supply coming from China.  This development is in large part a result of policies set in motion in the 1980’s revolutions in Communist Europe and China.

References

Library of Congress (July 1996). Russia: the perestroika program.

Retrieved from http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-11441.html

New Learning (2011). Deng Xiaoping: Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Retrieved from http://newlearningonline.com/new-learning/chapter-4-learning-

civics/deng-xiaoping-socialism-with-chinese-characteristics/

United States Census Bureau (2012).  Trade in goods with Russia.

Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c4621.html

United States Census Bureau (2012).  Trade in goods with China.

Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5700.html

Congressional Research Service (30 Sept. 2011). China-U.S. trade issues.

Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33536.pdf

Remington, Thomas (1989).  The Oxford Journals: Renegotiating Soviet federalism:

glasnost and regional autonomy.  Retrieved from

http://publius.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/3/145.abstract

Magstadt, Thomas M., Ph.D (1989).  Cato Institute. Gorbachev and Glasnost—A new Soviet order? Implications for U.S. foreign policy.

Retrieved from  http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/PA117.HTm

Barboza, David (2011).  The New York Times. The man who took modernity to

China.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/22/books/the-impact-of-deng-xiaoping-beyond-tiananmen-square.html?_r=1

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